BY TRONE DOWD
Much to the chagrin of Queens commuters, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) officials are expected to vote in favor of new fare hikes this Wednesday.
It was reported last week that the MTA will follow through on the 25 cent increase, bringing single rides to $3.
There are two options upon which the MTA will decide. Option A would keep the fare at the current price of $2.75, while slashing ride bonuses from 11 percent to five percent. Option B would increase the base fare to $3, and bring ride bonuses to 16 percent.
Both options would have an impact on unlimited ride options, with weekly Metrocards going from $31 to $32, and monthly Metrocards increasing from $116.50 to $121. The hike is set to take place March 19.
The MTA has repeatedly pointed out that the increase would mark the smallest fare increase since 2009, but that has not appeased ridership and elected officials.
Members of the Riders Alliance, a non-for-profit organization that advocates affordable fares and improved service, were disappointed with the news.
“Fare hikes don’t just happen–they’re the direct result of the State refusing to actually put the kind of funding New Yorkers need into public transit,” Riders Alliance spokeswoman Rebecca Bailin told the Queens Tribune. “Fare hikes just make it more difficult for struggling New Yorkers to afford or even get to childcare, jobs or college courses.”
The Riders Alliance has been pushing Mayor Bill de Blasio to adopt what they are calling the “#FairFare” campaign, which would introduce reduced costs for less affluent New Yorkers.
“We want Mayor de Blasio to do the right thing and include funding for half-priced MetroCards in his executive budget,” Bailin said. “No one should have to skip meals or jump turnstiles in their efforts to pull themselves out of poverty.”
Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), has also been an advocate for improving public transportation in Queens both in service and in affordability. In December, Miller was one of many Queens commuters to speak against proposed fare hikes at an MTA public hearing at York College.
“This fare increase by the MTA will continue to exacerbate those who can afford to live in this city and those who cannot,” Miller said in a state released shortly after news of the upcoming vote.
Southeast Queens, along with parts of southern, western and northern Queens are all considered “transportation deserts.” These areas are considered to be underserved by available public transit options.
“At the same time, there are no plans to help those living in transit deserts, who despite having to pay the same fare, are not being given the same service that other communities receive,” Miller said. “There are no plans to alleviate these extreme commutes, which affects thousands of residents across the city, many of whom only make $35,000 a year. Studies have shown this leads to increased stress and health complications, while they cannot spend as much time with their families as those that have multiple transit options.”
Miller believes that Queens residents have been ignored on this front despite their cries for equity. In fact, equity was a large reason why Miller introduced legislation titled Resolution 670, calling for a uniform $2.75 fare across the board for LIRR, bus and subway commuters. The proposal has been referred to as the “freedom ticket” by some elected officials.
Since being introduced, the resolution has since been co-sponsored by 20 of his colleagues in the City Council. It is scheduled to be heard before committee at a later, undetermined date.
“Transportation can be the great equalizer, but communities like the one I represent have seen services reduced even after the MTA has increased fares in the past. No increase should be imposed until there is a plan to support families living in transit deserts and I urge the MTA to vote this proposal down.”
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), who co-sponsored Miller’s resolution told the Queens Tribune that another fare hike is “disgraceful,” and referred to current MTA services as “third world.”
“Taxpayers are paying more and seeing less service,” Richards said. “For Southeast Queens residents, there is no shortage of complaints around buses.”
He hopes the city and residents don’t lose sight of how helpful the Freedom Ticket would be for New York City residents.
“It’s easier to get to Florida by plane than it is to get to Manhattan by train,” Richards said of the commute from his district into the city. “I think for them to keep increasing the burden on the backs of everyday New Yorkers is a disgrace.”